Misguided Passion and Zeal

I can be overly zealous about things; seriously passionate. Why is it that being passionate about other religious traditions or our careers is acceptable, yet being a complete sold out Jesus freak is not? Paul writes about his own misguided passion and zeal to the Galatians in verse 1:14 when he talks about his former desire to uphold his ingrained education and tradition. He states, “And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.”

The Galatians were being reprimanded by Paul because they were turning back to their old customs. They were living in bondage again to the Hebrew customs rather than living free under the grace they obtained through the gospel. Paul needed to tell his story rather than just point the finger. Sometimes it is very helpful to others to understand we understand what they are going through because we went through it ourselves. The passion and zeal is not bad, but where it is directed may be. Today, anything done with passion surrounding the true gospel is risky, even within some church groups.

My jealousy for Jesus in a group setting of other “Christians” has been asked to be tempered several times. Perhaps it could cause someone to stumble or perhaps it upsets the “come enjoy our casual church” feel they are trying to promote. Some Christians are looked at like fanatics, lunatics, and freaks, but people who are passionate about any other religion or thing on this earth are praised as driven, passionate, and are applauded for their efforts. The temporary ruler of this world has only one desire and goal, to get us to turn from Christ and turn to anything and everything that is a false hope or false pursuits in hopes of never allowing anyone to see the Truth. Be on guard, Christian, in every situation, and keep your eye trained on the One who is Truth.

My Obsession

How often do we become obsessed with something, someone, or some purpose in our lives? We become highly convicted that it is right; we are right. We hustle and chase after a big dream only to find out that, in reality, we are chasing after the wind. We may not figure this out on this side of heaven, but our hope should be, as Christians, that the Holy Spirit inside would reveal when an obsession becomes an idol. The obsessions in our lives are the very things that have the potential power to take our eyes off of what is truly important. 

Paul was obsessed with keeping to his Hebrew scholarly convictions until Christ revealed otherwise. Paul needed to remind the Galatians how fervent his dedication to Judaism was and how he was wrong. Admitting when you are wrong is a big thing in Christianity. He needed to lead by example just as Jesus did. In Galatians 1:13 Paul writes, “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.”

I can relate to Paul. I am so super opinionated and sometimes violently uphold my position. I am so enamored with Christ that all I care about is his glory. I say that with a bit of trepidation because that is how I would like to see myself but my spirit knows I fumble every day. That is the beauty of sanctification. I try to be bold for Jesus. I want to violently destroy the works of Satan. I also need to admit when my fleshly desire to be right gets in the way of the gospel message. 

Father help me to be an excellent ambassador for you. Help me to help others see You; to see You in your magnitude. Lord you are everything and I am nothing. I am your slave — your fully sold-out-to-you slave. I want to be excellently obsessed about you, for you.

Heartbreaking: Have you tried to put God on his knees? The Bible says MANY will try and be shocked at the outcome.

Paul was one of God’s chosen men to share the true gospel. He was one of the original first converts in a very different way than the other apostles who walked with him for 3 years. Paul wanted to be clear, when he wrote to the Galatians, that what was revealed to him was not of man but of God. In Galatians 1:12 Paul states, “For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ himself gave it to him. 

In today’s world anyone who says God spoke directly to them, as in they heard an audible voice, we usually deem as not true. Why? There is no reason for God to be showing up in that way since we already have everything verified. Throughout history you will see God showing up in miraculous ways and audibly speaking to prophets, yet only at specific times, with sometimes hundreds of years passing without a word. We are living in possibly the longest length of time that there have not been major breaks in natural law, so of course we are skeptical when someone says they “heard the voice of God.” 

What about back then? I wonder how they felt. Were they skeptical? They must have been dealing with massive disbelief. It was so radically different from their foundational and traditional beliefs. To hear the gospel back then, breaking of natural law would be a benchmark to prove its veracity or truth. I wonder what ever happened to the other men who were with Paul on the road to Damascus? Did they become converts too? They all fell on the ground and the other men with him experienced something too. They saw the drastic change in Saul (Paul). They must have been dumbfounded. 

Are you saved? Have you been plucked out of the grip of Satan and given a new life in Christ? If so, then God chose you too! Not in the miraculous, blinding, way He approached Paul, but in a life changing way none the less. If you think about your conversion and then think about your life now, if you do not see any radical change, especially if you have been a “Christian” for a long long time, I encourage you to consider something important. The Bible says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old self has passed away and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) This has to happen. Jesus himself said you must be born again to new life. (John 3:3)

If you have passed that off by saying “We all have a different conversion story and not everyone’s is a major shift,” I encourage you to take a step back and read your Bible again. I hear this time and time again in the American Christian circles. “I’ve always been a Christian.” “I got saved when I was 5.” “I grew up in the church, my dad was a pastor.” I am not saying for sure you are not saved, but you may want to check to see if you actually are bearing fruit. Do a fruit audit. Check to see if you are in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Work out your salvation with massive respect for who made you and the simple fact that you cannot put God on his knees before you and decide if and when you get saved. It is up to Him to call you. It is up to Him to bring the dead to life. God is sovereign. Study what that means. The magnitude of the importance of this is too huge. The ramifications are too important to let this slide. Yes it is scary and hard, but a blessing none the less. 

Can I do something as loving as I can think of for you? If you grew up in the church and were saved at an early age, may I be so bold as to throw a red flag on the play? Spend time to evaluate yourself. My heart breaks for the many, not the few, but the many who will some day stand in front of Jesus calling him a good friend, thinking they are saved, only to hear him tell that person to get away from him, and that he never knew them. (Matthew 7:21-23) Heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking. Don’t be one of the many. Be among the few. Ask the Holy Spirit to do a work in you, ask Him to reveal the absolute Truth to you. You will be blessed!

What is Truth?

Man’s gospel is not God’s gospel. Be careful to know the difference. Moving forward Paul is clear that the gospel he teaches is not from the false teachers, but only from God. In Galatians 1:11, Paul writes to the Galatians, “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.” God and God alone has given him the Truth. Paul again is asserting that he was given authority by God. He wants them to know it is counter to what man would have them believe. While on the surface it may seem easier to be saved by grace and not works as the false teachers were trying to get them to believe, the gospel Paul is teaching is a harder truth and more difficult path. The Truth of the gospel is nothing that could have been conceived by man. Based on what they were believing in they were having a hard time letting go of old customs and living in the freedom of Christ’s grace. 

It is easy for us to get sucked into the world view of Christianity. There is a desire to add to the gospel as “Jesus and”. Our minds may still have a hard time, even after conversion, believing it is “Jesus alone.” Ultimately, we are under Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Our spirit entwined along with His Spirit fully understands that it is a life lived by faith alone, but also knowing that faith is not alone. We see the proof of this in our spirit’s desire is to obey His commands. This, however, is where a pure desire from Christians could become a heresy to those who only identify with Christianity as their religion.

Consider a person who identifies with the Christian faith. On the outside they look the part, and they even feel the part. They are a part of everything Christian: church, service to others, they give offerings and read the Bible. They pray and wear a cross on their neck. They are in with God, right? Interestingly even if they have all the right check boxes checked, the one that is the most important is the Holy Spirit. If that person is not truly saved, the Holy Spirit will not be actually guiding their steps. Their hearts desire would not be to please Jesus in full. The motive behind their obedience is like gross used diapers to God. In essence and in reality, their “good deeds” are considered worse to God than if they did nothing. 

On the other hand, a truly saved person, filled with the Holy Spirit, cannot wait to fulfill the desires of God. Yes, our flesh scratches at the surface often, but the Holy Spirit trumps all. We ultimately desire God’s will above our own. A life lived in step with the Holy Spirit is a life honoring to God. A life that becomes angry at a lack of respect toward Jesus and cannot bear to see Him slandered is a life honoring to God. A life lived with conviction to learn more about Christ and to be ever more sanctified month by month, year by year is a life honoring to God. A life truly lived with a desire to be an ambassador to God and not to self, to glorify God and not self, to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” is a life honoring to God. 

Honor God my friend. Pray that God would reveal Himself to you. Pray for wisdom to do His will. Pray for more faith. Pray for more of His Holy Spirit to guide and protect your steps. Man’s gospel is not God’s. Man is fallible. If you want to be certain you are not believing in the wrong gospel, you only have but one thing to do: read the entire Bible, cover to cover, as often as you can.

People Pleasers are the WORST and I am the front runner! 

How often do you run around all day doing things for your kids, your husband, your mom, your friends, your church, and your kid’s school, only to land on the couch at night exhausted realizing you really did nothing in that time to serve yourself. We live in a world where it is honorable to give give give but then we hear our self-help gurus trying to remind us to put the oxygen mask on first before we help others get theirs on. If mom isn’t well, no one is well. Fill up your cup so you can fill others. The inspirational quotes are endless. It is interesting that they are missing one major point. They are all very short sighted. It would be like telling your cell phone to charge itself before it can help you. How could it? It is not the source of energy. Neither are you! Focusing on yourself first won’t really help all that much. In the short term it can help, but over the long run your self-help books, self-service in the way of reading a book, getting a massage, taking time our for you, will do nothing for you unless you are plugging into the Source.

Paul states in Galatians 1:10 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” The more you focus on man, whether others or self, you will not be focusing on Jesus. By trying to please people, we by default, will not be pleasing Jesus. You cannot serve both. The rub comes when we start to live this out. By simply trying to please Jesus and do what He wants, others will get their feathers ruffled. You will start to experience in a small way what religious persecution feels like. Paul could have very well gotten persecution from both sides. The Jews were mad at him for hanging with the Gentiles and teaching them that the old customs were no longer necessary. The Gentiles were mad at him because he was telling them they were following false teachers. He was Truth with a capital T everywhere he went and humans who are not the children of God didn’t like it. 

Sadly today we try to be a slave to everyone and anything. Many of us are natural people pleasers. People pleasers usually have an interesting double edge where they don’t want to upset people, however in their eagerness they end up upsetting the people they only wanted to help. We need to look to the Source and remember the only One to please is God. Ask yourself this simple question every day: is everything I am doing today something that brings glory to and is pleasing to God? If the answer is no, then reset. Redirect your intentions and rework your schedule around the pleasure of God… not you, not man. Pleasing your husband or serving your kids is something that can be pleasing to God. The key is motive. If your motive is to please God, your intention and attitude will drastically change. Do everything as if you are doing it for Jesus! (1 Corinthians 10:31)

The Sad Reality of Churches in America Today

Heresy is drastically on the rise across America. Mainstream media and some “Biblical Pastors” such as Joel Olsteen and Benny Hinn show us just how easy it is to create a “feel good” gospel centered around self rather than Christ. Man-centered theology is an oxymoron and should not be tolerated by any Christian. We must diligently watch out for heresy in your church and in ourselves, too. In Galatians 1:8-9, Paul was making his condemnation doubly clear, when he states basically the same sentence twice, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

By stating the same thing back to back, two times, he is in effect giving them a harsher condemnation. He was making certain that the Galatians knew there was no fudging on this area. We see this in scripture only a few times. Like in Philippians 4:4 where he says “Rejoice in The Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” His repetition also implies that having false pastors (preachers and teachers) in our church is something that could and would happen often and without notice. It seeps in so insidiously.
It is so hard to decipher if we are under sound preaching. We assume our pastor went to seminary and was taught only Biblical truths. We assume, and rightfully so, that they should know more than us and that they have our best interest in mind. However a look at the path the American mainstream church has taken, we ought to think twice and take another look at our own church. We must be good Barreans and do the work ourselves. But how would we know if we have placed ourselves under a pastor who is unknowingly teaching a false gospel?

Sadly many do not. They just go to church and bible study and let others tell them what they should believe. We assume that verses such as Acts 20:29 couldn’t apply to our pastor (a “fierce wolf”). This is why it is so insidious. It seeps in through self centered behavior that comes with power. Man craves it and it is one of the easiest ways Satan gets into the heart of man (even the elect!) Think about it. Does your pastor teach directly from the Bible or does he teach topically on every-day issues then throws a verse or two in? He may even throw 20 verses in, however you can always tell if what they are teaching is man-centered or God centered. How?

Are you ready for it? Be honest with yourself on this one. When you go to church are you interested in what the pastor has to say? Do you like what he is preaching? Do you feel good after the message? Did he give you sound advice on how to be a better person in society? The time has come my friends, where people want to hear from teachers about things that they need help with to feel good. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” 2 Timothy 4:3.

Men behind pulpits will rise up, preaching with passion using the Bible as their cloak. “And from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Read my books and do my studies they tell their people. Has your church turned into a self-help program? Many have. The monster churches (mega) of today are frightening. Yes, there are a few that are mega and still uphold the true gospel, but again, they are few. You can tell by the conviction they teach. A God-centered message is full of conviction, not ear tickling.

Consider Jesus’ own ministry. He did not say, “Come, hang out, I’ve got a bounce house for the kids, and we will be doing a carnival for the family, and oh, by the way, follow me, it’s fun, I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life.” Nope, I still can’t find any of that in the Bible. He said things like, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) Jesus also said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

Jesus also said things like, be overjoyed when you are persecuted on His account, and when someone hits you on the face, turn and allow him to hit your other cheek, and how about loving your enemies, or that all other religions are false (no tolerance from Jesus on this one), or that your pursuit of money is a pursuit against God. People should be up and leaving right in the middle of a sermon! That is the mark of a good pastor: teaching the truths Jesus taught might just cause people to leave. It weeds out the flock. It is a good thing! Jesus’ ministry had MANY people leaving from teaching that were too hard to hear. Man gets too hung up on staying in the black, filling the pews, having more “amens” during the sermon and more pats on the back after.

John 6:60 states “When many (MANY, not some) of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” And again in verse 66, “After this many (again MANY, not some) of his disciples (not just random people listening but his DISCIPLES) turned back and no longer walked with him.” {!!!!} This should knock the breath out of you. They turned back! They NO LONGER FOLLOWED HIM! Wow! Do you understand now? Take a good hard look at who you are placing your soul under to teach you about God’s Truth. They are just men. Not only do you need to make sure you trust your pastor and make sure you find a good one who is above all else humble to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, but also become a student of God’s word. Not a student of commentaries, but a student of the Bible. Read it. More now than you ever have before. It is THAT important!

Swing that bat!

Anyone, no matter who or what they are, should be handed over to God for destruction if they are preaching a different gospel other than the one from Jesus. Paul, to the Galatians in chapter 1 verse 8, states, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Paul is holding this so seriously that he says that person should be cursed if he or she preaches a false gospel. Even if they are an angel from heaven. The idea behind being accursed is that the person would be handed over to God without any hope of redemption; they would be committed to destruction. This was a bold and harsh statement but it was the reality then and is the same reality now. 

Paul is my kind of person. He does not sugar coat things. He tells them the truth with boldness and shocking reality when needed. The letter to the Galatians is written with a sense of urgency and no time for pleasantries, and Paul’s eagerness to get his point across is intensified because of his love for them. He had a right to come at them with such power because he already built a relationship with them and knows that they know the Truth because he was the one who shared it with them. 

How often has our passion as Christians been right, however directed at the wrong people. I remember when I first became a Christian, I literally could have written the name Jesus on a bat and hit people over the head with it and that would have been less intense than what I was doing. I was so intense for Jesus and wanted everyone to know, but I was directing it at the wrong people, in the wrong way. Taking Paul’s direct approach would only work with people you have a strong relationship with and who already received the gospel of Truth. 

When I look at Christian’s today, the pendulum has swung drastically the other way. They take the world view of Christianity and apply it to their brothers and sisters in the church. They don’t judge. They don’t get involved. They don’t want to ruffle feathers. Take a play out of Paul’s playbook and find your courage! Be bold and speak up if necessary. If a sister is in sin, is in your church, and claims Christ, you have a duty to talk to her. We read Matthew 7:1 and think it applies to us but fail to continue to read on through verse 5. Read it now! Really. Go look it up, then come back… We are commanded to help take the speck out of our brother’s eye after first taking the plank out of our own. We misread this passage to simply mean we should leave it all alone. That could not be further from the truth!

The only way we are going to bring on a greater revolution is if we clean up our acts. Start reading the Bible thoroughly and often. Meet with a group of Christian friends with intentionality. Give each other permission to call each other out. Meet once a week and share a personal weakness. Become accountable to each other. I cannot tell you how often I meet with women who do not even know what to say when you ask them “How can I be praying for you this week?” It is as if no one has ever asked them that question before. It is too personal so they give you some general request for their child or their husband. Ladies! LET EACH OTHER IN! Share in one another’s burdens. Be each other’s strength as Christ has called us to do. Three chords are not easily broken. Do not forsake meeting together. Pray for one another. Be together, be one in Christ, be strong, and we will all fast become a modern day revolution giving glory and honor to Christ alone!

Jesus Calling is a distortion of God’s word!

There is only one true gospel and others will try to distort it and add to it. Paul writes to the Galatians in chapter 1 verse 7, “not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” The Greek word for “distort” means to turn one thing into another. Elsewhere in the BIble when it talks about the sun being turned into darkness, the same word is used. These people from Galatia were probably not intentionally trying to distort the gospel but Satan and his henchmen were and still are. The people convinced themselves that they were correct; that they were almost enhancing the gospel. Paul is boldly telling them this is wrong. The distortions were effectively turning them from the one true Gospel. These people were being troubled by this distortion. They were being stirred up and agitated. He wanted to make certain that the Galatians knew there is only one gospel.

There are so many things that distort the gospel. Things that take our focus off Jesus, yet are in the name of Jesus. Things like feng shui from “Christians” who start out talking about energy from an electricity perspective but then say you are loosing all your money because your toilet seats are not closed. We are in jeopardy of becoming superstitious which leads to a lack of faith in God. Some are writing what they are receiving new revelations from Jesus. They are stating that Jesus is personally speaking directly to them and these “new words” can be trusted and seen as scripture. Last I checked the Bible still holds true about not adding or taking away anything from the Word of God (Proverbs 30:5-6, Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, Revelation 22:18-19). 

The modern Christian seems to select items from the Bible as if at a buffet, choosing some more favorable truths and rejecting what doesn’t “feel” right or what seems to be antiquated. Beloved reader, this is insidious. It is a constant battle to guard ourselves from the false teachings of this world. Even believers will be drawn away and enticed into the “world biblical view” (Matthew 24:24). There really is only one way to keep from going astray. Prayer should be a continuum in your day, but our minds are tricky and our flesh is strong. While we must continue to pray throughout the day and also as a solid time given to our Boss as we clock in each day, there is something else that must be a mainstay. Guard yourself against heresy by reading the entire Bible cover to cover as often as you can. Heresies have a sneaky way of seeping into the smallest of cracks and little by little they will end up breaking you beyond repair. Paul was being as loving as he possibly could by rebuking them. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is seemingly the most difficult and painful.

When I broke my arm as a child my dad rushed me to the hospital. Yes I was in pain, but nothing compared to the agony of resetting the bone. It was the most loving thing to do? Without the pain of setting my bone back to its right place my life would have been filled with pain and disability moving forward. Sometimes a momentary yet intense pain is necessary for healing and new life to begin. Don’t be afraid to correct your brothers and sisters in Christ and also to take correction. Correction to the mind of man without the Holy Spirit won’t go too smoothly and will most likely not be profitable. Dig deep into the Bible to bring its Truth along side the situation. 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”. We all have our flesh still clinging to us. Our flesh is strong and wants to win. Root yourself in the Word of God. Root yourself in prayer. Root yourself by surrounding yourself with trusted children of God who are not afraid to help you become the best servant to Christ that you can be!

Are you 100% certain you are not being deceived?

How can you know if you are being deceived? Oddly, most don’t know at all. They go along their perfect “Christian” life not knowing they are actually following another, different Jesus that the world has created rather than the one true Jesus. Beware of anything that would draw your attention away from Jesus that could be cloaked in the name of spirituality or growth. This is Paul’s message to the Galatians in chapter 1 verse 6. Right out of the gate, Paul rebukes the Galatians when he says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-.” In every other letter to the other churches he give a praise report giving abundant thanks for them and then goes into what they need to work on. To the Galatians, he says a quick “hello” and then slams right into them. He is astonished. In Greek this word means to “wonder in amazement”. Paul is dumbfounded. He can’t understand why they would have strayed and he is letting them know of his utter disappointment. The word word Paul used for “deserting” in Greek means they were not fully deserted but they were just then beginning to turn away. He was trying to stop them before they went too far. How far is too far though and how long did it take for him to write and them to receive his letter? Timing. God’s is perfect. 
It is often too late for some, but for others it isn’t. The reality is that we don’t know a person’s heart. We can’t know if it is too late. We must obediently implore people to change their ways. To turn and trust in Jesus. Do we do this? An honest look at my own life and I would fire myself from my job as an ambassador for Christ on a daily basis. How many souls do I pass by every day that are desperate for the real Truth? How many conversations do I have with good friends where my own embarrassment at their lack of righteousness ends in an awkward laugh rather than a firm but loving rebuke? More than my soul would like to admit. I allow my human flesh to cower in a corner of denial. A prayer for boldness needs to be at the top of my list. A prayer for a broken heart for the lost needs to be at the center of my soul. A prayer for a right and true understanding of the Gospel message which I need to take seriously through Biblical study, meditation, and memorization must be paramount to my ambition in this life.

An Inconceivable Plan

Jesus died on the cross as a willful plan for our salvation to deliver us from death into life through God’s will and not our own. Galatians 1:4 states, “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” This was Paul’s central message of the good news over and over in his letters: Christ died for our sins that we might be a new creation, rescued from the Fall and death all through the sovereign choice of God. He wanted them to know that this was planned out. He sets a high view of God by telling them right up front that that was the will of the Father, His awesome plan to rescue us. It was and is an inconceivable plan. It was nothing we could have come up with on our own and nothing we would choose ourselves. 
We live strangely outside of eternity in a bubble of time. Our life and everything we know is inside this bubble. But there is more, way more, that we don’t even know or understand. That unknown “world” is God and everything in Him. As CS Lewis puts it, imagine rolling out a huge scroll of paper that goes on and on and on in front of you and in back of you. Now draw a tiny dot. You might think you know where I am going; the dot is your lifespan, right? No, CS Lewis is representing the dot as time. Time as we know it is a tiny dot in the grand scheme of things. God is working everything out and has a beautiful incomprehensible plan. Those who are saved are a new creation and are a part of that plan. How and why He is so patient with us and loves us, even LIKES us, is beyond me, but then again we are in that time bubble. How inconceivably glorious that, as followers of Christ, our filter is now the holes in the hands of our Savior. Everything in our life must be filtered through those holes. Lord help us to continually look to the cross and the gift of grace and peace you so graciously lavished on your children.